49 BC – Lesson: Caesar on the Rubicon

The Rubicon was a shallow river that served as a boundary between Rome and its provinces.

Roman law stated that a general was not allowed to enter Italy with his troops. Julius Caesar arrived on the Rubicon in January 49 B.C. with the 13th Legion. He had a decision to take. Should he cross the river and enter Italy and start a civil war, or disband his troops and enter Rome, which his enemies controlled, alone and unprotected?

The Task

Read the background materials below.

Background Materials

Source: Caesar

Source: Pompey

Source: Crassus

Now discuss and decide:

  • What are Caesar’s options?
  • What are the benefits and risks of each option, for Caesar, his enemies and Rome?
  • What do you think he should decide to do? Why?

The Immediate Consequences

Now read about what happened when Caesar crossed the Rubicon.